CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 17: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a home run in the second inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 17, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Second Thoughts: Votto acting like an MVP, on and off the field

About this eclipse … I don’t need any of you staring at the sun like it’s Erin Andrews working the sidelines at a play-in game at UD Arena. You know what I’m talking about. I need your eyes intact so you can keep reading this column. College tuition isn’t getting cheaper!

I’ve been a critic of Joey Votto through the years. His aloof demeanor and the way he snubbed my kids for autographs at spring training a few years back soured me on the Reds first baseman. But I gotta say I’m coming around, and so is Votto. He’s having an amazing season, and it’s scary to think where the Reds would be without him.

»HAL MCCOY: Votto could go down as best Reds player -- ever

Heading into Saturday’s game, Votto was batting .315 with 32 home runs and 86 RBIs. His on-base percentage is .447 … and he hasn’t missed a game. He also seems to be having fun, which you should be doing if you’re playing a kid’s game. From chucking baseballs on the roof at Wrigley Field to joking around in postgame interviews with Jim Day, Votto is becoming an all-around MVP.

You know that “one-and-done” rule in the NBA? Kids have found a way around it. I’ve never heard of so many high school basketball players “reclassifying” so they can enter college early. The latest to game the system is Marvin Bagley III. He’s the No. 1-ranked basketball recruit in the Class of 2018. Well, was. He announced last week that he’s going to Duke – this fall.

It certainly takes some planning for a kid to graduate from high school early, and good for them. This essentially allows Bagley to play one season at Duke and then jump to the NBA, so he’ll be in the pros a few months after his high school class graduates. Just like Kobe and Kevin Garnett.

Urban Meyer said last week that Penn State “absolutely” belonged in the College Football Playoff last season. I can only assume he meant Ohio State should’ve been left out. Because if the Nittany Lions belonged, surely USC belonged. Or maybe Meyer meant that the playoffs should’ve included eight teams. I’m going with that, because coaches always are in favor of expanding playoffs and tournaments.

Browns coach Hue Jackson prefers that his players stand for the playing of the national anthem and said as much last week. Fair enough. That led a big-mouth commentator to call him a “clown.” Instead of sticking to his guns, Jackson backed down and read a PC statement. It’s a shame that someone feels they can’t stick up for the flag without getting ripped by carnival barkers looking for TV ratings.

Trending up: James Franklin, Manny Machado, Phillip Ervin. One blocked punt against Ohio State has made Franklin the darling of Penn State. The Nittany Lions coach has agreed to a new six-year deal that will pay him an average of $5.3 million per year. One blocked punt. Franklin has ridden that wave to signing better recruits, so it looks like Penn State is back, and the Big Ten East should be better than the SEC West for years to come.

Trending down: Sean Smith, Josh Gordon, Blake Bortles. Smith is taking the Oakland Raiders tough-guy thing a little too far. The Raiders cornerback is facing felony assault charges for allegedly stomping on the head of his sister’s boyfriend in Pasadena, Calif., on July 4. What, the guy wouldn’t share his sparklers? Prosecutors say Smith beat up the guy, then stomped on him.

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